- By 2030 there will be only 27 priests ministering in the Kilmore Diocese which comprises of 34 parishes.
Last weekend Bishop Martin Hayes (pictured), Bishop of Kilmore, published a pastoral letter Making Decisions and Preparing for the Future Together, to manage ministry into the future throughout the Diocese of Kilmore. Highlights include:
- Parishioners throughout the Diocese of Kilmore to be consulted
- Era of teamwork involving priests and people embracing co-responsible leadership
- New faith formation course for lay leaders based on everyday language
- Rescheduling of Masses based on local feedback and partnering of parishes
In his pastoral letter, Bishop Hayes says, “It is the right and responsibility of lay people to be involved in our parishes. We can no longer rely on a model of parish which depends solely on the priest in view of the reduced number and ageing profile of priests.”
Following an extensive consultation process with the Diocesan Synodality team, the Diocesan Pastoral Council, the Priests of the Diocese and Diocesan staff along with the Director of Pastoral Planning and Faith Development, Martina Gilmartin, Bishop Hayes has developed a plan that will involve Parish Pastoral Councils and wider parish communities in discussions on enhancing the role of lay people in parishes as well as reviewing the number and frequency of Masses in our parishes.
Bishop Hayes continues, “while everyone is acutely aware of the decline in vocations to the priesthood, I see planning for the future of our diocese as an opportunity to bring lay people into their own as future faith leaders. I intend to support people in assuming leadership roles. As a diocese we must provide support and training to enable teamwork between priests and lay people.
“Due to the ageing profile of our priests, and changes in the behaviour of faith practice more generally, we in the Diocese of Kilmore find ourselves in unchartered waters. Only one thing is for sure: we must act now to sustain our Church for tomorrow.
“For example, we have currently 64 priests in the diocese, with 44 in active ministry resident in 34 parishes, two abroad and 18 retired. We have one seminarian at this time nearing ordination to the Diaconate, while more than half of our priests are over 70 years of age, and one third over 75. To put the situation more starkly, by 2030 there will be only 27 priests ministering in the diocese of Kilmore.
“This reality means that, sadly, we cannot continue with the existing number of weekend Masses in our parishes. Decisions have to be made which are fair to both priests and parishioners. With this in mind, I am leading a consultation with all parishes to address the celebration of Masses occurring at the same time in adjacent churches, and to enhance cooperation between priests and parishes in terms of sharing duties. Demographic changes mean that Mass won’t be celebrated in each church on each weekend.”
Bishop Hayes stressed that, “central to our planning for the future is our lived experience that the Mass is best celebrated with maximum participation and a full congregation.”
In the Bishop’s letter, people are invited to reflect on, and talk about, important issues of faith practice such as parishes having no resident priest, and how to sustain the maintenance of churches. Bishop Hayes asks that the following questions are discussed:
- In view of the fact that priests are fewer and getting older. What are your fears or concerns about our faith in the future?
- How can lay pastoral leaders address key parish needs in our community?
- What preparations do we need to put in place if there are fewer Masses in our parish?
Setting Easter 2024 as the goal for changes to take place, Bishop Hayes calls for flexibility and cooperation on the part of priests and parishioners as they address the common pastoral challenges now facing all of the faithful of Kilmore.
Copies of the letter were distributed at Masses, is available on kilmorediocese.ie and on the diocesan Facebook page. People can offer feedback by way of participation in their local Parish meeting which takes place in early November.
Notes for editors
- Full text of pastoral letter Together Making Decisions and Preparing for the Future https://www.kilmorediocese.ie/bishop-martins-pastoral-letter-october-2023/